Jehad Serwan Mostafa

Jehad Serwan Mostafa is believed to be the highest-ranking U.S. citizen fighting overseas with a foreign terrorist group, the Somalia-based al-Shabab.Kim Bellware, California man now ‘highest-ranking’ American fighting alongside al-Shabab terrorists, FBI says,” Washington Post, December 3, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2019/12/03/fbi-renews-million-reward-american-explosives-expert-fighting-with-terrorists-overseas/. He is on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorist List.“Jehad Serwan Mostafa,” FBI: Most Wanted Terrorists, accessed December 4, 2019, https://www.fbi.gov/wanted/wanted_terrorists/jehad-serwan-mostafa. Mostafa was charged with providing material support to al-Shabab in October 2009, according to indictments that were unsealed in August 2010.“Fourteen Charged with Providing Material Support to Somalis-Based Terrorist Organization Al-Shabab,” Department of Justice, August 5, 2010, https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/fourteen-charged-providing-material-support-somalia-based-terrorist-organization-al-shabaab. On March 20, 2013, the U.S. Department of State offered a $5 million reward for information leading to his arrest and conviction.“Indictment Unsealed Charging Former San Diego Resident Jehad Serwan Mostafa with Providing Material Support to Militant Islamic Terrorist Organization Al-Shabaab,” Department of Justice, December 2, 2019, https://www.justice.gov/usao-sdca/pr/indictment-unsealed-charging-former-san-diego-resident-jehad-serwan-mostafa-providing. On December 2, 2019, federal prosecutors unsealed an indictment against Mostafa, which accused him of providing material support to al-Shabab. This second indictment extended the timeline of the original 2009 indictments to include his alleged terrorist activities, which took place between March 2008 to February 2017, bringing renewed attention to the case.Kim Bellware, California man now ‘highest-ranking’ American fighting alongside al-Shabab terrorists, FBI says,” Washington Post, December 3, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2019/12/03/fbi-renews-million-reward-american-explosives-expert-fighting-with-terrorists-overseas/.

Mostafa was born in Waukesha, Wisconsin and raised in San Diego, California. He was reportedly involved in and served as president of the now-defunct Muslim Youth Council of San Diego.Elliot Spagart, “US citizen raised in San Diego faces new terrorism charges,” Associated Press, December 2, 2019, https://apnews.com/3fd9c933e17d4db99ed4b7c8ab3663f7. In 2000, Mostafa was issued a license to be a security guard from California’s Bureau of Security and Investigative Services, though it expired in 2006.Greg Moran, “Former SD man among 14 charged with aiding terror group,” San Diego Union-Tribune, August 5, 2010, https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/sdut-san-diegan-among-those-charged-aiding-somalian-ter-2010aug05-htmlstory.html. He graduated from the University of California, San Diego in 2005.Elliot Spagart, “US citizen raised in San Diego faces new terrorism charges,” Associated Press, December 2, 2019, https://apnews.com/3fd9c933e17d4db99ed4b7c8ab3663f7.

Mostafa’s American acquaintances have described him as a “quiet,” “patient,” and “peace keeping Muslim.” They were shocked to learn of his 2009 indictment, with one woman saying, "Oh my God. That's hard to believe. He had no accent. He was a white kid with red hair.”R. Stickney and Paul Krueger, “Accused Terrorist was ‘Kind, Peaceful Man:’ Friends,” NBC San Diego, August 6, 2010, http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/Accused-Terrorist-Was-Kind-Peaceful-Man-Friends-100139424.html. His father, Kurdish Syrian Halim Mostafa, reportedly made a 2008 film called Mozlym, in an effort to show the “true meaning of Islam often lost amid misconceptions of non-Muslims in America.”Elliot Spagart, “US citizen raised in San Diego faces new terrorism charges,” Associated Press, December 2, 2019, https://apnews.com/3fd9c933e17d4db99ed4b7c8ab3663f7.

Mostafa left San Diego in December 2005 and arrived first in Sanaa, Yemen where he traveled on to Somalia.Greg Moran, “Former SD man among 14 charged with aiding terror group,” San Diego Union-Tribune, August 5, 2010, https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/sdut-san-diegan-among-those-charged-aiding-somalian-ter-2010aug05-htmlstory.html; “Indictment Unsealed Charging Former San Diego Resident Jehad Serwan Mostafa with Providing Material Support to Militant Islamic Terrorist Organization Al-Shabaab,” Department of Justice, December 2, 2019, https://www.justice.gov/usao-sdca/pr/indictment-unsealed-charging-former-san-diego-resident-jehad-serwan-mostafa-providing. Once there, he reportedly fought against internationally-supported Ethiopian forces and went on to join al-Shabab in approximately 2006.“Indictment Unsealed Charging Former San Diego Resident Jehad Serwan Mostafa with Providing Material Support to Militant Islamic Terrorist Organization Al-Shabaab,” Department of Justice, December 2, 2019, https://www.justice.gov/usao-sdca/pr/indictment-unsealed-charging-former-san-diego-resident-jehad-serwan-mostafa-providing; “Jehad Serwan Mostafa,” FBI: Most Wanted Terrorists, accessed December 4, 2019, https://www.fbi.gov/wanted/wanted_terrorists/jehad-serwan-mostafa. In the ensuing decade, Mostafa held positions with the terrorist group’s explosives unit, media wing, and training camps, according to FBI Special Agent Erin Westfall.Kim Bellware, “California man now ‘highest-ranking’ American fighting alongside al-Shabab terrorists, FBI says,” Washington Post, December 3, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2019/12/03/fbi-renews-million-reward-american-explosives-expert-fighting-with-terrorists-overseas/. He has also served as a leader of the group’s foreign fighters, according to the FBI.“Jehad Serwan Mostafa,” FBI: Most Wanted Terrorists, accessed December 4, 2019, https://www.fbi.gov/wanted/wanted_terrorists/jehad-serwan-mostafa. Mostafa rose to al-Shabab’s leadership as early as 2009.“Indictment Unsealed Charging Former San Diego Resident Jehad Serwan Mostafa with Providing Material Support to Militant Islamic Terrorist Organization Al-Shabaab,” Department of Justice, December 2, 2019, https://www.justice.gov/usao-sdca/pr/indictment-unsealed-charging-former-san-diego-resident-jehad-serwan-mostafa-providing.

There is evidence that Mostafa played a role in the terrorist group’s external operations. In 2011, he appeared at a press conference in an apparent attempt to facilitate partnerships between al-Shabab and other terrorist groups. Mostafa has been linked to the use and development of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) for terrorist attacks in Somalia. The FBI believes that he continues to play a leading role in planning operations against the government of Somalia, as well as internationally-backed African Union forces operating in the country and East Africa region.“Indictment Unsealed Charging Former San Diego Resident Jehad Serwan Mostafa with Providing Material Support to Militant Islamic Terrorist Organization Al-Shabaab,” Department of Justice, December 2, 2019, https://www.justice.gov/usao-sdca/pr/indictment-unsealed-charging-former-san-diego-resident-jehad-serwan-mostafa-providing. Among Mostafa’s many roles in al-Shabab, he is a leader in the group’s “explosives department” and holds a pivotal role across the media and soldier training wings. He is also reportedly close to the decision-making circle of Amniyat, al-Shabab’s intelligence wing controlled by al-Shabab leader Mahad Warsame Qaley.“Wanted by the FBI: Jehad Serwan Mostafa,” Federal Bureau of Investigation, December 2, 2019, https://www.fbi.gov/audio-repository/wanted-podcast-jehad-serwan-mostafa-120219.mp3/view.; Hollie McKay, “Who is the FBI’s most wanted American terrorist? Meet Jehad Serwan Mostafa,” Fox News, January 9, 2020, https://www.foxnews.com/world/who-is-the-fbis-most-wanted-american-terrorist-meet-jehad-serwan-mostafa.

Mostafa is on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists list. There is a reward of $5 million for information leading to his capture. “Jehad Serwan Mostafa,” FBI: Most Wanted Terrorists, accessed February 23, 2015, http://www.fbi.gov/wanted/wanted_terrorists/copy_of_jehad-serwan-mostafa/view. In February 2009, Mostafa was indicted by a U.S. grand jury and charged with “conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists; conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization; and providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization.”“Fourteen Charged with Providing Material Support to Somalia-Based Terrorist Organization Al-Shabab,” Department of Justice, August 5, 2010, https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/fourteen-charged-providing-material-support-somalia-based-terrorist-organization-al-shabaab. Mostafa faces a 15-year sentence for each indictment.“14 in U.S. accused of supporting Somali terrorist group,” Los Angeles Times, August 5, 2010, http://articles.latimes.com/2010/aug/05/nation/la-na-somali-terror-20100806.

On December 2, 2019, federal prosecutors announced that they had unsealed an indictment against Mostafa. This superseding indictment extends the timeline of the original October 2009 three-count indictment, alleging that Mostafa continued his terrorist activities between March 2008 and February 2017.“Indictment Unsealed Charging Former San Diego Resident Jehad Serwan Mostafa with Providing Material Support to Militant Islamic Terrorist Organization Al-Shabaab,” Department of Justice, December 2, 2019, https://www.justice.gov/usao-sdca/pr/indictment-unsealed-charging-former-san-diego-resident-jehad-serwan-mostafa-providing; Kim Bellware, California man now ‘highest-ranking’ American fighting alongside al-Shabab terrorists, FBI says,” Washington Post, December 3, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2019/12/03/fbi-renews-million-reward-american-explosives-expert-fighting-with-terrorists-overseas/. The most recent indictment alleges that Mostafa currently plays a critical role in the Somalia-based terrorist group, making him the highest-ranking U.S. citizen fighting for a terrorist group abroad.Tim Stelloh, “San Diego-raised man now leading terrorists in Africa, officials say,” NBC News, December 3, 2019, https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/san-diego-raised-man-now-leading-terrorists-africa-officials-say-n1094641.

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